While Bollywood has had its fair share of actors of foreign origin — from Katrina Kaif to Barbara Mori and Sunny Leone — the television industry has seen fewer of them. And when they are cast, it’s always in stereotypical roles.
So, in historical shows, you’ll see the 'evil colonial ruler’ who tortures Indians. In contemporary shows, more clichés are reaffirmed when a Caucasian girl is sometimes shown as the arm candy of an antagonist. Why? Because western influence is associated with all things bad, haven’t you heard?
What’s funny, however, is that the foreigners in our TV shows speak Hindi. It’s bad Hindi, but how are they even expected to speak that? That gets put down to creative liberty. So American actor Alexx O’Nell does it in Dhoondh Legi Manzil Humein; Suzanne Bernert speaks Hindi in Kasautii Zindagii Kay; and Brandon Hill, cast as a British lieutenant governor in Mohe Rang De, speaks a heavily accented Hindi.
Most international actors, however, don’t apparently mind the clichés. Brandon has admitted in the past that he was fine with the stereotypical role he played; he would apparently even apologise to the Indians on the set for saying things like "all Indians are dogs".
But a soon-to-be-aired show, called Firangi Bahu, looks it might break some of the clichés. So instead of having an Amercian born desi girl married into a conservative Indian family, they have cast a Dutch actor, Sippora Anna Zoutewelle. She too, however, will be seen spouting Hindi, but the makers might have a logical explanation for it.
Reality shows, however, have been more welcoming of foreigners. We’ve had Lauren Gottlieb on the dance reality show, Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa. Elli Avram is in the ongoing Bigg Boss 7, and Jade Goody has appeared in an earlier season.
We understand that fiction shows, revolving around Indian settings, don’t need foreigners that often, but when they do, can we at least be spared the age-old clichés?